Who will be new opposition leader?

i967.photobucket.com_albums_ae159_Malaysia-Today_Mug shots_pakatan-rakyat_zpscdafe930

(The Malaysian Insider) – As Pakatan Rakyat meets today to determine who will be the new opposition leader following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s guilty verdict, two possible candidates have emerged.

Both candidates are from PKR, which is seen as the “middle ground” party in a coalition with disparate ideologies from the conservative, Islamist PAS at one end, to DAP, which is made up of secular, social democrats.

They are PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Of the two, Dr Wan Azizah has had the experience of being parliamentary opposition leader, when she was chosen for the post in 1999 the first time her husband Anwar, was jailed.

However, questions have emerged if she is able to take over that responsibility again and unify the coalition given the acrimonious relationship between PAS and DAP.

Leaders from the two parties have in recent weeks been trading barbs over local council elections and hudud law, which the PAS-led Kelantan government wants to implement in the east coast state.

Political scientist Associate Prof Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin said Dr Wan Azizah would be up to it as long as she was willing to stand as candidate again in Pematang Pauh – the seat which her husband currently represents.

“It would not be the first time she represents Permatang Pauh. When Anwar was not around, she stood in for him there.

“This could happen again but it depends on the party’s decision whether or not to field her as an MP,” Shaharuddin, of Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara, told The Malaysian Insider.

Dr Wan Azizah was a two-term MP for Permatang Pauh from 1999 to 2008. The seat had previously been Anwar’s before he was jailed for abuse of power in 1999.

She quit as Permatang Pauh MP in 2008 to make way for Anwar’s return to Parliament.

Dr Wan Azizah is currently the Kajang assemblyman.

Shaharuddin said Wan Azizah was currently the longest serving president of any political party whether from PR or Barisan Nasional.

“She has headed PKR for 15 years. (PAS president) Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang took over in 2004 while Lim Guan Eng was only recently chosen as DAP secretary-general. (Umno president) Datuk Seri Najib Razak only took over in 2009,” said Shaharuddin.

Dr Wan Azizah, said another political scientist Prof James Chin, was also one of the few personalities who was accepted by both PAS and DAP.

Chin, who is director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University, said Dr Wan Azizah would likely be chosen as she is seen as Anwar’s representative.

“But the problem is, if Dr Wan Azizah is chosen again, it would make PKR look as if it is a party dominated by one family without room for anyone else.”

Choosing Dr Wan Azizah would also risk reminding the public of the Kajang move – the controversial and partially successful plot to replace former Selangor menteri besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim with Anwar.

Dr Wan Azizah’s deputy in PKR, Azmin, has also emerged as a possible candidate owing to his vast experience in politics. He started at roughly the same time as Anwar 25 years ago.

A former aide to Anwar, Azmin left Umno and BN when his boss was removed as deputy prime minister in 1998.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who is the executive director of the think-tank Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), said Azmin was the better bet to replace Anwar.

“Of the three parties in the PR, the opposition leader usually comes from PKR because PAS is seen as too Malay and DAP as too Chinese. PKR is the party in the middle.

“Like it or not, PKR needs to put forth a suitable candidate and right now the most senior and most qualified is Azmin.

“Azmin’s advantage is that he is a menteri besar and that means he has resources,” Wan Saiful told The Malaysian Insider.

He said although some claimed Azmin has weak interpersonal skills, the Hulu Klang assembly person was a good political strategist.

“The reality is PKR has no other candidate. That responsibility (of being opposition leader) has to fall on Azmin.”

While not denying that Azmin has the capability, Chin, however, said that Azmin was not trusted by some in DAP.